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New evidence given at inquiry into malnutrition in UK Care

Eating and drinking plays such a fundamental part of life; it’s how we show love and care for each other. It’s also a vital way for patients and their loved ones to connect, especially at the end of their lives.

Caroline QuiltyCaroline Quilty, who has recently completed an MSc in Palliative Care at the Cicely Saunders Institute, reports on the role she played at the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Inquiry into Malnutrition in UK Care.

In November, Caroline presented oral evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Patient Safety Inquiry into Malnutrition in UK Care.

The aim of the inquiry is to bring about a better understanding and awareness of how malnutrition affects patients across all areas of health and social care. This will inform a single approach to addressing both the causes of malnutrition and raising awareness of this with both professionals and the public.

This APPG was brought together by The Patients Association and is made up of MPs and peers from across all parties. A range of stakeholders with an interest in malnutrition are invited to contribute to the inquiry, and the first meeting of the group was investigating malnutrition in palliative and end-of-life care. The desired outcome for the APPG is a more joined approach between Public Heath Directors and GPs at a local level, and the development of Department of Health guidance, with accessible information on basic nutrition and the importance of monitoring weight loss as an early warning sign of malnutrition.

Caroline’s evidence was specifically around nutrition in end of life care; to share patient experiences with the panel of MPs and peers in order to help influence policy. Having recently completed her MSc dissertation on the effects of weight loss in patients with cancer cachexia, she illustrated how patterns of weight loss can be missed but that with holistic nutritional screening and support around eating and drinking, the patient and their family can be enabled to make the most of what they are able to eat. Caroline also talked about the importance of acknowledging the social and emotional side of eating and drinking, which in her experience as a dietitian is one of the most important parts of good nutrition in palliative care.

The inquiry began in November 2016 and is due to take around 18 months to complete, but hopefully the effects of successful policy implementation will be felt by both professionals and by patients.